Sociology of Law in Britain: A Case Study
The general character and evolution of the sociology of law was analysed in the previous chapter in terms of confrontations between law and sociology as fields of knowledge and practice. A more detailed consideration of the particular history of the sociology of law in Britain extends this inquiry by providing a concrete case study of interactions between legal studies and the social sciences. This chapter highlights conditions that have promoted and hampered the development of research on law in society, as well as the gradual emergence of a sophisticated sociological perspective on the legal field. Sociology of law presupposes much more than ‘contextualism’: that is, the study of law in social context. Three characteristics of the English common law environment can be identified as having had major long-term effects on the development of social scientific research in Britain: empiricism, Benthamite rationalism, and common law pragmatism. A further strand of social scientific research in the field of law is represented by criminology.
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